I’m a long way off from experiencing it for myself, but I’ve heard it’s pretty amazing to be a grandparent. You get to have fun with the kids, and then give them back to their parents when they’re tired, cranky, or hungry. It’s a great arrangement (I’m sure right now my parents and in-laws are reading this and thinking about all the times we’ve left the kids with them while we were traveling, so they couldn’t give them back. We’re so grateful. It wasn’t that bad. Let’s do it again real soon, ok?).
Grandparents often ask us for help and advice about setting up their home for grandchild visits. After a lot of years with no children in the house, it can feel a little overwhelming to start over again. But if you will have grandchildren staying at your house, either for day trips or overnights, there are a few key products that will make these visits easier for everyone involved.
1. A place for the grandbabies to sleep
Older children can sleep in beds; that’s easy. But babies need a safe place to sleep, and they sleep a lot. You’ll save your visitors a lot of schlepping if you have a couple of baby-friendly options on hand. Toddlers also have more unique needs, since they can easily fall out of a standard bed. Any sort of air mattress on the floor will work fine, but we love the Tuckaire Toddler Bed by The Shrunks, which is inflatable, but has ridges along the sides to keep kids from rolling off. The same company also makes an inflatable bed rail which can be used on a standard bed.
2. A chair for eating at the table with the family
At mealtime, it’s really important to have a chair that fits the child properly in order for him/her to feel comfortable sitting through meals with the whole family. Foot support is key, especially for toddlers and younger children. For grandparents, we prefer chairs with an adjustable seat and footrest, so the chair can be easily modified to fit visitors at a range of different ages.
3. A baby bathtub
You can improvise a lot of things when a baby comes to visit, but if you’re hosting an infant, bath time can be hard without a baby bathtub. But these tubs can often take up a lot of space, making them a frustrating storage challenge. Fortunately, the newest generation of baby bathtubs take up practically no space at all.
We love to recommend construction toys to grandparents since they’re so open-ended and they appeal to kids of all ages. But play food, puzzles, sorters and stackers are also popular when my kids visit their grandparents. I do think every grandparent who regularly hosts children should have a set of Magna-Tiles. They will keep a room full of kids busy for hours.
5. Children’s Books
We love to share our favorite childhood books with our children when we’re visiting our parents. Some grandparents have saved all the old books their children used to read, which is great (just don’t let babies chew on older books, for the sake of both the baby and the book), and some grandparents will need to assemble an updated library. Or just visit the library before the grandkids arrive.
Bonus items: Stroller and car seat
For grandparents who spend a considerable amount of time with their grandkids and who regularly help with childcare, a stroller and a car seat are pretty useful. The mantra for grandparents is always to choose products that offer the most flexibility with ages and stages so they’ll get a lot of use out of them. The Diono RXT, a car seat that can be used from newborn to preteen, fits the bill perfectly — though it may be too heavy for some grandparents to handle. As for strollers, there’s no model that works perfectly for everyone. If you’ll only need to push around one child at a time, take a look at the Baby Jogger City Mini GT — it is durable, offers good maneuverability and a has a very easy fold.
What about childproofing?
There’s no substitute for close supervision when you bring a mobile baby/toddler to visit friends and family. One time, I got caught up in a conversation at my parents’ house and my daughter tried to pull herself up to standing on a hot radiator. She burned her hand and everyone felt terrible. Look around for specific hazards that could present a problem. If you want the extra peace of mind, we recommend grandparents look for childproofing products that can be easily removed and put away. It never hurts to have a pressure-mounted gate (or two) on hand, some corner protectors, and a package of outlet covers and cabinet locks. Also, be careful about where you position the crib, and keep it away from blind cords and power cords.
One more quick note. Some grandparents have a basement full of lovingly preserved furniture, gear and toys, and they’ve been eagerly waiting to reuse it all with their grandchildren. Many new parents, accustomed to the stringency of today’s safety standards, get a little panicky about this. Confrontation often ensues and almost always contains some variation of the phrase “I used it with you, and you survived.” But the reality is, those safety standards have come a long way over the years, and the best practice is to make sure babies and children are using products that are up-to-date.